Self Motivation for the Doctoral Journey

Sometimes when people hear that I am in a Doctoral program and working full-time simultaneously, they look at me and ask how are you doing this? For those who have completed the Doctoral journey, they get the Doctoral life as there are common experiences that all Doctoral students experience regardless of discipline. For those who are thinking about returning to graduate school, I respond it is about self-motivation. I am not going through the Doctoral process for the sake of going through the Doctoral process. I have an end goal in sight and that is what is driving me. I gave a talk at the University of Central Florida (Alma Mater # 2) in 2017 about career ceilings and how to turn a ceiling into a floor. I have known for years that my career interests for the next chapter of my life would require me to return to graduate school for my terminal degree. I would continue to hit a career ceiling until I return to graduate school. In my mind, it makes no sense to continue hitting a career ceiling when I have the time and life space to return to graduate school. Life space is critical as you must make room for the Doctoral journey which will consume your life. I can leave the office for the day but the Doctoral life is ubiquitous.

When you embark on the Doctoral journey, your priorities change and sacrifices are made to ensure success. There are a long list of opportunities and events that you will have to say no to during this temporary season of your life. Throughout this journey opportunities are presented to me and I decline some opportunities as my life cannot accommodate these opportunities in this season. I listen to Andy Stanley all the time and he talked about Hindsight for 2020 which is applicable to life period regardless of the year. He shared that he adapted “no for now but not forever” to accomplish endeavors and seasons of his life. I will be in a different phase of my Doctoral journey a year from now which may allow me to consider opportunities that I have been saying no to. Saying no is not only for your Doctoral journey but also for what you may have to put in place for the next chapter of your life. Your end goal may require more than a terminal degree. There may be additional experience that you have to gain or achievements to accomplish. Look ahead to your next to see what is required for that level to determine what you need to put in place. This will require you to drill down on what you want to do.

Do you want to work in government, industry, or academia? Each sector is looking for Doctoral credentials. What specific position do you want to move into? What does that position require? If you want to work in government, do you want to work at the Federal, State, or Local government level? What specific agency? If you want to work in industry, what specific industry? If you want to work in academia, do want an administrative appointment or a faculty appointment? Or both? If you want a faculty appointment, do you want to work at an R1 institution (Research University) or a PUI (Predominately Undergraduate Institution)? The deciding factors should be dependent on the teaching load you desire and if conducting research is a priority. The teaching load will be heavier at a PUI (e.g., 4/3, 4/4/)  as compared to a R1 institution (e.g., 2/2). If research is a priority, then you should consider an independent research project where you can collect initial data to present in your research statement and to contribute to future proposals for funding. You are not depending solely on your Dissertation research to get you in the door. An independent research project will extend the research and funding plan narrative of your research statement. Another question to consider is do you want to go the tenure track route or not? At the end of the day, you must know why you are doing what you are doing as this will motivate you in the journey. I have been making sacrifices along this journey but it is worth it. Pre-doctoral life, I would go to sleep between 8:30pm and 9:00pm and for the last couple of years I go to sleep when I can. I can go to sleep after I am hooded and walk across the stage. I am in the do what I have to do phase to get to the do what I want to do phase.

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